Sunday, April 25, 2010

Esky out of Derby; Rachel Returns; Tiller Fillies Win For Fun At Woodbine

This weekend was meant to define the starters for the Kentucky Derby but instead it will be remembered more for who won't make the field. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported this morning that Eskendereya has been scratched from the Kentucky Derby.

“We're extremely disappointed,” Pletcher said. “Yesterday morning I noticed a little of a filling (swelling) in his left front leg. . . . I can't give you a lot of specifics about the injury. He is not lame. He is just slightly off, is how I would describe it.”

Pletcher said it could be a soft tissue injury, but that there was too much swelling to be sure. He said the horse would undergo more examinations later in the week.

Eskendereya was coming into the race off a 9 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. In his race before that, he dominated a field of 10 in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.

He was expected to be the best chance yet for Pletcher to win at the Derby, where he is winless in 24 tries with now six more potential entrants this year.

“He is without a doubt the best horse I've ever brought to this race,” Pletcher said.

Saturday marked the opening day of Churchill Downs and the added money of the Derby Trial saw Aikenite, Eightyfiveinafifty and Pleasant Prince entered in the race hoping to qualify for the Kentucky Derby with a win. However, their plans were foiled by Calvin Borel and Hurricane Ike who hugged the rail to victory in the mud. Aikenite rallied belatedly to finish second with Pleasant Prince third.

Although Aikenite earned enough money to qualify for the Derby, trainer Todd Pletcher advised that he would not be sending the horse to the Run for the Roses.

Some consolation for fans making their way to Churchill Downs is that Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra might make her debut on Friday.

The connections for the horse of the year Rachel Alexandra are eying the $400,000 La Troienne Stakes on the Kentucky Oaks undercard Friday at Churchill Downs for her next race.

“Right now, we’re pointing there,” said Jess Jackson, Rachel Alexandra’s majority owner, in a statement released by the racetrack. “We’d like it to be. Her workout Monday will tell us a lot more. It’ll be light; it’s not going to be a bullet. We want to see that she stays on track and improves every time she goes out and that’s what’s been happening the last two or three times. She’s getting ready.”

The La Troienne is a mile-and-a-sixteenth race for older fillies and mares on a track that Rachel Alexandra has had great success on. She won the Grade I Oaks last year by a record-breaking 20 ¼ lengths.

Afleet Again rolled to victory at Aqueduct on Saturday in The Withers Stakes at Aqueduct. When D' Funnybone failed to fire, 24-1 shot Afleet Again, under Abel Mariano, pulled a stunning upset, sprinting beyond second-choice Ibboyee in deep stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Ibboyee finished second by 4 1/4 lengths over Spangled Star, while D' Funnybone finished fourth.

Afleet Again wins the Withers

* * *

Trainers Greg De Gannes and Bob Tiller had a great afternoon at Woodbine on Saturday each winning two races. Of the pair, Tiller must be ecstatic over the impressive performances of his three year-old fillies Are You Kitten Me and Amazon Belle.

In Woodbine's third race, the Oaks nominated Are You Kitten Me broke last from a tough rail position but under a patient ride from Eurico Rosa Da Silva, the daughter of Peaks and Valleys stayed just off the rail and waited for room. Heading into the stretch, Are You Kitten Me tipped out and swooped the field convincingly to win in 1:05 2/5 for 5 1/2 furlongs.

Are You Kitten Me with a stunning victory

Three races later, Tiller's Amazon Belle - who was a hard fought second in a stakes event to end her 2009 campaign - started off 2010 on the right foot as she stalked the pace of Red Release and then blew by the field when jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva asked for more to win by a widening five lengths. She earned an 86 Beyer number for her effort.

Amazon Belle swoops to victory

* * *

There was a bit of a buzz on the web earlier this week when it was announced that Hall of Fame trainer Jim Day was giving away horses. However, the issue was cleared up in a Toronto Star report:

“They’re not giveaways. They’re not starving. The horses are fine. I just had too many of them to train. I’d like to get down to between five and 10, and start over.”

Just where he’ll do this is the question, with the farm’s mortgage taken over by a group including one of Day’s former owners. Late last week a court order arrived for Day to vacate.

Day won’t say how deep he’s in debt. “I don’t want to think about a total just yet. I don’t want to get depressed,” he said.

“Times have been better — but they could be worse, too. I do owe some. But I can’t pay people off until I get re-established in a much smaller operation with a lot less overhead. Then I can start paying some of these bills.”


“I don’t know. For better or for worse, I have experience with the equestrian thing. Between the two worlds I can probably generate enough activity to make a decent living, and pay some of these bills.”

Let's hope that Jim Day can get back on his feet. He's trained many of my Woodbine favourites over the years for Sam-Son. You can read more about Day's exploits in one of my old blog posts entitled A (James E.) Day In My Woodbine History

* * *

Betty Jo Williams gets her first Woodbine win

Congratulations to apprentice jockey Betty Jo Williams who won her first race aboard Sir Heat Throb on friday. I actually spoke with Williams a few weeks ago after a second place finish with this same horse. You can read that post by CLICKING HERE

After that race, Williams said:

"It was amazing," exclaimed Williams. "The horse ran great. He was real game and has good heart. (Ha! Sir Heart Throb!) I galloped him in Florida so I knew him. It was real nice. Riding races and winning is great but riding at Woodbine is another story."

Betty Jo Williams notched her first win at Woodbine

Williams was upstaged on Friday by fellow apprentice Omar Moreno who won three races on the day. This is a very talented group of young jockeys currently plying their trade at Woodbine. Ryan Pacheco is clipping away nicely in the money nearly 50% of the time and Caroline Duquet has been making the most of her few mounts as well.

* * *

Later this afternoon Ian Black's Queen's Plate hopeful D's Wando will make his 2010 debut in a difficult Woodstock Stakes. Bill Tallon filed the following report for the Daily Racing Form.

D's Wando had not been scheduled to run in Sunday's $150,000 Woodstock, the six-furlong race that is billed as the first local stakes stepping-stone to the Queen's Plate.

But trainer Ian Black had to call an audible after D's Wando and Stormy Lord, another Queen's Plate candidate in his stable, both were entered in a second-level allowance race for Sunday that failed to fill.

D's Wando will be making his seasonal bow after concluding his first campaign with a third-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity.

"I expect they're going to run away from him early," said Black. "But if he can close some ground, at least he's got a race into him."

Stormy Lord was not entered in the Woodstock and probably will proceed directly to the $150,000 Queenston, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds here May 15.

"We're trying to get him settled," said Black. "We thought if he got in a race with a huge amount of speed he'd get running quicker than we want him to."

The Woodstock Stakes is the eighth race on Sunday's card. Here is the field:

Sunday April 25, Race 8, Woodstock Stakes
PP Horse A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer
1 Essence Hit Man (ON) 3/G L C Sutherland 117 A Cappuccitti
2 Bear's Hard Ten (KY) 3/C L E R Da Silva 119 R Baker
3 City Trooper (NY) 3/C L E Ramsammy 115 G Weaver
4 Fearless Cowboy (KY) 3/C L A Garcia 119 K P McLaughlin
5 D's Wando (ON) 3/C L E Wilson 117 I Black
6 Gary D (KY) 3/C L L Contreras 115 S M Asmussen
7 Wildcat Frankie (FL) 3/G L P Husbands 117 J Hatchett

For a little more info on Essence Hit Man, please visit my interview with trainer Audre Cappuccitti in a post entitled Queen's Plate Profiler: Big Red Mike, Essence Hit Man and Joey's Best

Immediately after the Woodstock is an allowance event for Ontario Sired Three Year Olds And Upward Which Have Never Won Three Races. This race also goes six furlongs on the poly and features Bob Tiller's Race for Gold and Mark Casse's Legal Review taking on eight older horses. You can read about Race for Gold, including photos and an interview with Bob Tiller, in my recent Queen's Plate Profiler.

Here is the field for the allowance tilt:

Woodbine - Sunday April 25, Race 9
PP Horse A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer
1 D'wild Man (ON) 4/G L J Stein 121 G H Rowntree
2 Montrose Avenue (ON) 4/G L E R Da Silva 121 N Gonzalez
3 American Scout (ON) 4/G L C Sutherland 121 A Cameron
4 The Boy's Ring (ON) 4/G L R A Dos Ramos 121 P M Buttigieg
5 Bug's Boy (ON) 7/G L S R Bahen 121 J P Le Blanc, Jr.
6 Bob's Ring (ON) 4/C L E Ramsammy 123 L Silvera
7 Race for Gold (ON) 3/C L E Wilson 116 R P Tiller
8 Mega Rush (ON) 4/G L O Moreno 1165 M P De Paulo
9 Legal Review (ON) 3/C L P Husbands 116 M E Casse
10 Gas N Dash (ON) 4/G L T Pizarro 121 S Di Pasquale

* * *
Best of luck with your selections this afternoon. I poured over the Daily Racing Form for more than an hour last night and could not post a winner here with any conviction. That said, I'd be sure to include the Reade Baker trained Bear's Hard Ten in any of your wagers in the Woodstock. That horse improved with each outing in 2009 including a solid defeat of Queen's Plate contender Giant's Tomb.

Is he fit enough to win today? The workouts suggest he is...and the Woodstock field features a trio of shippers with questionable recent form. If the odds are right, I'll take a crack at Bear's Hard Ten with Essence Hit Man and D's Wando in the mix underneath.

Keep an eye on my Twitter account for updates later this afternoon from Woodbine.


The_Knight_Sky said...

Wow. What a lovely young lady Betty Jo Williams is.

The name reminds me of one of my favorite actresses JoBeth Williams. LOL.

I wonder what it is that makes Woodbine such a hotbed for female riders. ;-)

Keith - TripleDeadHeat said...

Hey TKS!

I'm not complaining...we're stocked with talent up here at Woodbine. (And some decent jockeys too!)